Seoul is getting harassed by the North Koreans again, this time over a jointly controlled manufacturing facility.
It’s a reminder that the two countries never officially ended their conflict, which began in 1950 (only an armistice was signed).
That may seem natural — the South is one of the world’s most important marketplaces, and needs to protect their standing.
But until around the ’90s, they didn’t have quite so much to lose from an economic standpoint.
With the kind cooperation of flickr user Stephen Dreher, we’ve compiled a series of striking images of Seoul from the mid-1960s, only a little more than a decade after hostilities had ceased. His descriptions appear beneath each photo.
As you’ll see, there are plenty of scars still apparent.
'Sunny day, with a dusting of snow still around, looking north toward City Hall on Taepyong no 2Ga, about halfway from Namdaemun. Duksoo Palace gate on right.' Seoul, Dec 1965
'On the way to see Hello Dolly, on its Asian tour, starring Mary Martin.' Seoul at night, Nov 1965
But there was still a long way to go. As of 1971, 74 per cent of Seoul's citizens still relied on buses.
The man behind this transformation was Park Chung-hee, a controversial figure who'd taken power in a coup.
'US Embassy. Flag at half staff probably for Adlai Stevenson, which would date this as after 14 July. Bando Hotel on right. Building under construction extreme left was to be Samsung HQ, as I remember.' Jul 1965, Seoul
'Cattle drive through somewhere in the northwest part of Seoul. Where are they going?. We had to wait before we could turn right.' Seoul, Jun 1965
'An orthographic nightmare. No possible way to transliterate this into hangul Hoo RA baw (Flubber), starring Hoo REH duh Ma kuh MA reh (Fred MacMurray in The Absent minded Professor). 'Piccadilly theatre, 1966
Source: New York Times
But the country remained under a nominal dictatorship. In 1980, at least 191 people were killed during democracy protests.
But the economic base Park had created remained, and by the early 80s companies like Hyundai and Daewoo had taken off.
In 1981, Seoul won its Summer Olympics bid for the '88 games. It was a watershed moment signaling the South had arrived.
Perhaps the best indicator that Seoul had by the end of the '80s become fully developed is a travel piece the Times did in 1989...
'City Hall Square, Looking toward South Gate. Duksoo Palace gate on right.' Seoul, Dec 1965